Batteries, candles, radio, newspapers, cash – those are the things that kept me going this past week. As a resident of Hoboken, N.J. , the "mile square" city across the Hudson River from Manhattan that was devastated by Superstorm Sandy, I've been in the middle of some of the worst that the storm delivered. Still, my husband and I count ourselves lucky -- our home wasn't damaged (we live in a part of town that didn't get flooded), a generator kept our elevators running and hallway lights lit. It will take me some time to sort through the experiences, sights and emotions of the past week.
I want to start the process by sharing in a very personal way some of what I saw, heard and thought since October 29. Where I want to begin is with a huge shout out to my Insurance & Technology, Bank Systems & Technology and UBM Tech teams and colleagues who courageously held down the various forts the past week, did some fantastic reporting (or so I hear -- I haven't been able to get online yet to read anything!) and generously did themselves and our brands proud. You may have read some of the reporting from Anthony O'Donnell, Nathan Golia, Bryan Yurcan and Jonathan Camhi, who have been focused not only on getting out our newsletters and publications but also on delving into what this historic catastrophe event means for our insurance and banking technology audiences. As frustrating as it was for me not to be able to join in the coverage, I knew I could count on "my guys."
[How are insurers based in the Northeast responding to Sandy's destruction? Read Northeast Insurers Mop Up After Sandy, Face Formidable Claims Challenge]
On that note, I also have a few words for the two industries I cover: insurance and banking. As my teams have been reporting, Superstorm Sandy was a catastrophe with tremendous near- and long-term implications for both industries. Not only were their own operations and employees directly affected by the storm and its disruptions, but they also will be critical to the region's recovery. For insurance companies in particular, the world will be watching the response -- how claims are handled, how homes and properties are underwritten in the future, how policies are priced. No doubt there will be criticism of insurers, some of it knee-jerk and uninformed and some of it justified. This event is likely to be at least as transformative of how our industry does business as was Hurricane Andrew 20 years ago. I certainly hope that I will be able to feel mostly pride in the performance of these two essential industries.
Monday, Oct. 29, started out as a reasonably "normal" work at home day, but as the day progressed it became apparent that the most dire predictions around Sandy's impact would come true. It became increasingly hard to concentrate on work as I realized that my stock of batteries probably was not going to be enough to last me through the crisis. At dinnertime we saw that the building across from ours had lost power, and we knew our time was coming. Filled the bathtub. We did lose power a few minutes before 9:00 pm, but it came back five minutes later -- "That wasn't so bad!" I thought. Then, about 9:05 pm, things went dark again. Nothing to do at that point but go to bed and try not to think about what we'd discover in the morning (and pray the windows didn't blow in on us).
Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio